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“I have not just changed my students, but this experience has changed me for the better.”

Mutsa Ashley Nyamhunga is a City Year Mentor, serving on Team Ubuntu in the West Midlands, 2022-23 

Before joining City Year, I was at a critical juncture in my life where I was extremely unsure of what the future had in store for me. Whilst having graduated with a law degree, City Year presented the opportunity to be a part of something so special and purposeful. I was admittedly very nervous and quite apprehensive, but nevertheless, I took a leap of faith, and this was one of the best decisions of my life.

Being a City Year Mentor has been an exhilarating experience, filled with many formidable challenges, ups and downs, life lessons, triumphs and endless opportunities. Ultimately, my role as a near-peer mentor  has allowed me to play an instrumental role in the lives of my students. I have challenged my students to be the best versions of themselves, been able to imbue them with a sense of self-believe, been there to make a safe space for them, and encouraged them to fulfil their potential. While such a role has sometimes been an uphill battle, seeing my mentees succeed has been a fantastic reward. I have not just changed my students, but this experience has changed me for the better.

One of the many special moments and starfish stories I experienced involved helping one of my mentees improve their self-esteem. This student was initially indifferent to the mentoring experience and was reluctant to receive in-class support. Nevertheless, I pushed forward, establishing a safe space to listen and support her mental well-being, and praised her for the wonderful student and person I saw her as. Bit by bit, she came out of her shell, became more confident within herself, and her abilities and subsequently became more engaged in our sessions and her classes. It has been such a joy to see her transformation, and the positive changes in all my mentees and focus list pupils.

The City Year experience has also been an opportunity for personal growth and development. I have thoroughly enjoyed the Leadership Development Days, where we built our professional and personal skill set, as well as the industry exploration days through which I had the chance to learn from employees at the Bank of America and other companies. In this space, I have developed many skills, which include: public speaking, listening, creativity, problem-solving and presentation skills.

My shining moment was being selected to represent City Year at a Royal Garden Party in Buckingham Palace. We were invited to this event after winning the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Volunteering Award in 2022. This was a momentous occasion, and it was truly an honour to have been chosen to represent City Year in this manner. It was such a unique and fun experience to be a part of. I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scenery, lively atmosphere, as well as delicious food. I know that I will savour this moment for the rest of my life.

All of my work, success and progress have been made possible by City Year’s commitment to establishing a safe environment, where I have felt confident to be my authentic, bubbly self and share my mental health journey, and my perspective as a woman of colour. Leaving the programme, I will miss my cohort, the staff, the other City Year Mentors on my team, and my fantastic Impact Officer.

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